In the past when sideboarding for the control matchup, you couldn't grab your copies of Chrome Mox fast enough. It made sense for that time, you wanted to be on a more consistent game-plan with more resiliency – this is where the "Grinding-Station" theory came from. That said, this plan is out-dated in today's metagame. With the printing of Search For Azcanta, the control decks have such a strong late game as they create actual card advantage instead of theoretical card advantage with Sensei's Divining Top. This creates situations where even multiple copies of Past in Flames isn't effective against their flurry of Flusterstorm, Surgical Extraction, Force of Will, and Snapcaster Mage.
Well, how do we beat that?
By going under them! This is where our good friend Chrome Mox comes back to the equation. These control decks are actually weakest in the set-up stage of the game, meaning that fast hands with a single piece of disruption are generally good enough to defeat these menacing control decks. Other than Search For Azcanta, there's also Counterbalance out of Miracles and Hymn to Tourach out of the black-based control decks.
An easy and effective way of playing around these cards is to simply combo off before they're relevant. With Hymn to Tourach based control decks, one strategy I personally like is playing out my artifact mana (Chrome Mox, Lotus Petal, and Lion's Eye Diamond) and then allowing the Hymn to Tourach happen. TES is a very threat based deck with typically 7-8 "tutor effects" to draw off the top of your library, allowing a lot of "I win the game" scenarios.
When sideboarding you should think of how your opponents are trying to combat you, for these matchups, all types of control decks are bringing in copies of Flusterstorm, Surgical Extraction, and Pyroblast. This is manageable, you can combat Surgical Extraction rather easily as it's not actually that good against TES (we don't really utilize Past in Flames as much as Ad Nauseam Tendrils). What you should do is sideboard in your copy of Tendrils of Agony because if the control player hits a copy of Burning Wish (with Surgical Extraction) that will leave you with Empty the Warrens as your win condition. This is an issue because Empty the Warrens isn't typically the strongest in these matchups due to cards like Terminus, Batterskull, Toxic Deluge and Marsh Casualties.
I've been trying to do something different recently when sideboarding against control decks. Cards like Defense Grid that are effective against Miracles but not as useful against decks like Grixis Control (due to discard and Kolaghan's Command) have become a liability. Instead, we're looking for a plan that can cover both decks. If you've read any of my sideboarding strategies over the years, you know that I like diverse plans. Because of this, we're siding in Tendrils of Agony and Past in Flames to pair with our Cabal Rituals to act as Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT) in post-board matches.
The last card to fend off would be Flusterstorm, which isn't always the easiest. Against the blue & white based control decks, cards like Xantid Swarm or even Defense Grid are very effective against this, but if you don't like these cards you can always attempt to overload on discard spells. I'm personally not a big fan of going over seven discard spells as you're only fighting them on one axis while they're combating you on several (the stack, graveyard, and permanents). In theory, discard spells can answer all of these, but in actual game play cards like Brainstorm or Snapcaster Mage can hide cards long enough to defeat you at an opportune time. Something like Xantid Swarm or Defense Grid can't be targeted by Flusterstorm and have a huge impact on the game. These strategies only work agains the blue & white based control decks, against the Hymn to Tourach based control decks I don't think permanent based answers that stop counterspells are effective. When the opponent has a solid mixture of discard spells and counterspells, it makes Xantid Swarm and Defense Grid rather embarrassing. Not to mention the fact they're both answered by Kolaghan's Command.
The last way to fight back (blue & white based control decks) is to bring in answers for permanents, it doesn't matter if you're splashing green for Abrupt Decay or staying Grixis. You should bring in some sort of answer for Counterbalance, Ethersworn Canonist and the uncommon Meddling Mage. Against the Hymn to Tourach based control decks, if they play more than two copies of Leovold, Emissary of Trest I try to sideboard in a few answers as I don't want to be forced into an Empty the Warrens line if the situation doesn't call for one. If you don't understand why, please read the "Small Creature Combo" decks section for the answer.
For more information on how to beat Control decks, please check out the resources links!
Important Cards in the Match-up
08-08-2018 Bryant Cook vs Brian Braun-Duin with Grixis Control on Legacy Premier League
07-14-2018 Michael Connin vs. Ali Mirghahari with UW Stoneblade at Prodigy Games: Lake Worth, FL
06-24-2018 Bryant_Cook vs. atdawn_theysleep with 4c Control on Magic: the Gathering Online
06-24-2018 Bryant_Cook vs. Iwouldliketorespond with UW Control on Magic: the Gathering Online
04-29-2018 Bryant_Cook vs. flowerdayonyon with Deathblade on Magic: the Gathering Online
04-29-2018 Bryant_Cook vs. Mikeantor11 with UW Stoneblade on Magic: the Gathering Online
03-04-2018 Bryant Cook vs. Jim Davis with Miracles at StarCityGames: Worcester, MA
08-06-2017 Albert Lindblom (alli) vs atdawn_theysleep with 4c Control (Round 4) on Magic Online (MTGO)
08-06-2017 Albert Lindblom (alli) vs Momsen with 4c Control (Round 3) on Magic Online (MTGO)
05-04-2017 Romario Neto vs Anuraag Das with UWr Stoneblade on Legacy Premier League
04-17-2017 Nick Linder vs. Gabriel Meier with Miracles at Gameplace in Lucerne, Switzerland
03-18-2017 Bryant Cook vs. Joe Stempo with 4c Control at Eternal Extravaganza VI in Washington, DC
04-22-2016 Steven Fierro vs. Fred Chen with Deathblade at Fire & Dice in Woodland Hills, CA
08-22-2015 Joey Valente vs. Corey Armstrong with Shardless BUG at Fire & Dice in Woodland Hills, CA
08-11-2015 Jordon Robbins vs. Jon Ha with Miracles at Ready to Play Trading Cards in Columbia, SC
01-10-2015 Bryant Cook vs. Zane Knapp with Esper Deathblade at StarCityGames: Philadelphia, PA
08-10-2014 Bryant Cook vs. Lloyd Kurth with Shardless BUG at StarCityGames: Syracuse, NY
06-13-2014 Bryant Cook vs. Reid Duke with Miracles at StarCityGames Invitational: Columbus, OH
08-27-2013 Bryant Cook vs. Harry Corvece with Shardless BUG at StarCityGames: Baltimore, MD
06-23-2013 Matthew Bevenour vs. Brad Nelson with Esper Deathblade at StarCityGames: Philadelphia, PA
03-17-2013 Bryant Cook vs. JD Nir with Esper Stoneblade at StarCityGames: Washington, DC
05-12-2012 Bryant Cook vs. Sam Roukas with BUG Control at Jupiter Games in Binghamton, NY
02-11-2012 Bryant Cook vs. Tariq White with Stoneblade at Jupiter Games in Binghamton, NY